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Hoof Boots & Protection     Trimming & Hoofcare below!

What are the Principles of Trimming?

© Anya Lavender.

WHAT I WRITE BELOW ARE PRINCIPLES. They are general guidelines and as such SHOULD NOT BE FOLLOWED WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING OR ADHERED TO WITHOUT CONSIDERATION of what conditions or exceptions there may be. Please keep in mind; Do Not Believe

We can see hooves in optimum condition, able to stand up to extreme conditions if we look to the wild ones for our model. Brumbies and Mustang are not genealogically different in the hoof department, only their lifestyle and environments differ to the domestic horse. **BUT because it is due to these factors, BEWARE and feral horses are also susceptible to all the problems we see in our domestics. You can find bad examples in the wild ones too!

  • The hooves need to be trimmed in a physiologically correct way, so that they can work most effectively - that is, trimmed for optimum hoof function including the bony column below the pasterns being in line, and ground surface of the pedal bone being slightly raised at the heels. Please take a look at some of my diagrams and photos to help you understand.

  • Foot trimming is usually done more regularly than is the norm. Occasionally, in the case of early rehab, this may mean every couple of weeks, but usually somewhere between 3-6 week intervals is sufficient. It is always preferable where possible, to ride more - giving your horse a truly natural trim - and trim less. The important point here is trimming frequently enough to *keep* the feet in optimal condition, rather than waiting for them to overgrow significantly before 'correcting'. So it depends on growth & wear rate, as well as state of the feet.


  • There should be equal amounts of hoof behind and in front of the true centre of the foot(point of articulation of the bones). Toes should be kept back so that 'breakover' is naturally short. Heel corners should be back at or very near the widest part of the frog. Hoof balance can be evaluated using the ELPO Mapping protocol.




  • Sole and frog material is NOT trimmed routinely, and as minimally as necessary. Thrush is one reason paring the frog may be necessary. Removal of 'daggy' bits, folds and necrotic tissue should be done, while leaving as much healthy material as possible


  • The hoof wall should be balanced in relation to the live sole plane, which often leaves the quarters slightly 'scooped' when looking at the hoof standing on a flat surface. Check out the work of a farrier by the name of Mike Savoldi, as one reference for why I follow the sole plane, and why the sole should share the load of the horse.


  • Walls are short, near level with, or only a few mm longer than the outside rim of the sole. It can depend on the environment and health of the hoof as to how short, but we're striving to avoid peripheral loading. Therefore, horses on hard ground need shorter walls, whereas horses in yielding footing can afford for them to overgrow a bit, and this can also be beneficial for grip too.

  • The heel buttresses should be level and short enough for the bulbs of the heels - back of the frog - to have ground contact when the foot is weightbearing. The length also depends on working environment and state of the feet.


  • Walls should be straight from coronet to ground surface, not dished, twisted or bulging, which indicates unhealthy pressure and leverage forces, with the outer edges of the ground surface 'rolled' to relieve the outer walls from active weight bearing and reduce the chance of chipping, splitting and leverage forces. The toes usually need to be 'rolled' or 'backed up' more strongly.


  • The front feet tend to be rounder, with a toe wall angle usually between 48-60 degrees, while the back feet are pointier and should be slightly steeper in angle, usually between 50-62 degrees.


  • The bars are near level with the sole plane. They will taper down from the heel with the sole and only the very rear will have ground contact. They should not be gouged out or shortened any more than this.



MOST IMPORTANTLY, I remind you again that the above are principles and guidelines

of a healthy hoof.

They are NOT RULES to be forced onto a foot.

  • It is a really good idea to take pictures and make notes of measurements before and after the first trim, then periodically after, so that you can gauge what is happening to the foot, and also to have a good reference to show any professional that you need help from. Include whole body shots and notes, as these are also relevant when assessing feet, and vice versa. Click pic for more detail.

  • Pictures should be taken of CLEAN feet, on a firm, flattish surface, NOT covered in mud or bedding or grass! Shots of hooves on the ground should be taken from near ground level & squarely front- & side-on. Shots of sole should include a straight on, one sighting forward from the heel and an oblique one - handy for better gauging depth. More on taking appropriate critique pics Here in the Members Section.


  • The trimmer needs to be knowledgeable and experienced enough to 'read' what each different hoof needs. It is simply not enough to follow a set of rules without adaptations. There are many principles to follow, but rarely any hard & fast rules.


  • **A hoof that is unhealthy and/or different from the above should be worked on little and often so as to gradually bring it closer to the correct model, **ASSUMING it should be changed at all - there are many exceptions and conditions.

  • Severely or suddenly changing the shape and angles of a hoof to make it conform to a preconceived mould can have detrimental and painful consequences for the horse.




It is beyond the scope of any website to adequately address all the issues of 'problem' feet and specialist hands on help should be sought. Alternately, if that's not possible, or you would like personalised assistance online from me,

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